The management of common property natural resources: Some conceptual and operational fallacies

TitleThe management of common property natural resources: Some conceptual and operational fallacies
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsBromley, DW, Cernea, MM
Secondary TitleWorld Bank Discussion Papers 57
Date PublishedOctober 1989
PublisherThe World Bank
CityWashington, DC
Keywordsabsentee ownership; common property; common property regimes; forestry; livestock; natural resources; open access regimes; private property regimes; resource management; rural management; state property regimes; watersheds

The topic of common property natural resources — and the tenurial regimes that come to be regarded as suitable alternatives for the purposes of accelerated growth — is critical to the practical work on development projects, primarily in agriculture, forestry, or fisheries. The job of designing or appraising such projects is a matter of complex craftsmanship. Central to this process are not only the technical and financial skills, but also a conceptual understanding of the socio-economic and cultural fabric within which individuals use and/or abuse their ecosystem. We deal in this paper precisely with such conceptual issues about property regimes, attempting to shed some light on several difficult and often-controversial questions embedded in the art and craft of purposive development interventions.

The term "common property" has been largely misunderstood and falsely interpreted for the past two-three decades. Common property regimes are not the free-for-all they have been described to be, but are structured ownership arrangements within which management rules are developed, group size is known and enforced, incentives exist for co-owners to follow the accepted institutional arrangements, and sanctions work to insure compliance.

This book starts with a discussion of property rights in natural resource management. The discussion will concern four possible management regimes (state property, private property, common property, and open access). It then turns to a discussion of project strategies and resource management, drawing particularly on Bank project experience in livestock, forestry, and watershed protection. It concludes with an agenda for action in natural resources, emphasizing the rehabilitation of rural managerial capacity. (author)


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Number of pages

vi, 66

Short TitleThe management of common property natural resources